Why Read (Diffractively)?

Keywords: deep work, higher education, neoliberalism, reading groups, slow scholarship, (post)qualitative inquiry, diffraction


Academics should produce quality scholarly research. However, the demands of the marketised, neoliberal higher education institution and the increase in the academic’s bureaucratic and administrative tasks do not allow for adequate engagement with the deep work and slow forms of scholarship that are needed to produce cutting-edge and insightful research. Many academics find it challenging to think critically and creatively under such conditions, yet they are unwilling to fill their time with shallow work instead. Thus, they are torn between producing an institutionally-determined number of research outputs, and striving towards producing quality scholarly work that advances knowledge in the academic’s discipline. Reading groups serve to rework this tension by providing a communal and scheduled place and mind-space for reading major academic works. Reading takes time and persistence. We find that setting aside time and creating creative spaces for reading groups offer an opportunity for silent revolt against the pressures of the higher education institution. In this (post)qualitative inquiry we diffractively read – “through one another” – two autoethnographical accounts to experiment with our experiences of various reading groups over a period of three years while positioning ourselves in relation to Barad’s notion of diffraction. This speculative experimentation entails a myriad of ideas and methods that serve to decentre hegemonic, monolithic knowledge systems through seeking alternative ways of knowing, and recognises the importance of the entanglement of matter and meaning in tracing (and countering) the social relations produced in neoliberalist contexts. Such (re)thinking is thus a vital counterpoint to the neoliberal obsessions of the higher education context, (re)directing the scholar to new non-autonomous and mutable landscapes.

Author Biographies

P. du Preez, North-West University, Potchefstroom

School of Professional Studies in Education

J. du Toit, North-West University, Potchefstroom

School of Philosophy


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How to Cite
du Preez, P., and J. du Toit. 2022. “Why Read (Diffractively)?”. South African Journal of Higher Education 36 (1), 115-35. https://doi.org/10.20853/36-1-4837.
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